Deer Hunters: We’re Killing Ourselves

By Will Brantley writes Brow Tines and Backstrap

Love thy neighbor. Unless that SOB crosses the fence after your buck. (John Hafner photo)You know what’s going to kill deer hunting? It’s not the animal rights crowd. Human beings are hard-wired to eat meat, and most of us do. If you enjoy a hamburger on occasion but oppose hunting you’re, well, a hypocritical moron. That’s about all the sugar-coating I can manage.

It won’t be gun control. Given the outcome of the 2012 election, I have concerns—as do most gun owners—of new gun legislation. But I’m not crafting my tinfoil fedora just yet. And look, if we reach the point where they’re knocking on doors to take your Model 700, you’ll have long since stopped worrying about deer hunting.

No, deer hunters will kill deer hunting. We can’t get along. We can’t work together. We don’t want others to be successful. We’re jealous and spiteful. We think our way of deer hunting is right, but your way should be against the law.

Here’s a story for you. Two landowners have bordering farms. One landowner bought his farm to hunt. He’s a bowhunter and a QDM steward. He pours his money into food plots, runs a dozen trail cameras, and sets stands for every possible wind. His pride and joy is a buck he’s named Stickers, a monster 6 ½-year-old that feeds in his plots, beds in his thickets and will easily make the book.

The other landowner is a row-crop farmer. He could care less about deer hunting himself, but if a group of out-of-state guys wants to pay him to shoot deer out of his beans, he’ll gladly take their money and give them keys to the gate.

Gun season begins. One of the out-of-staters has a ladder stand overlooking the farmer’s bean field, not far from the neighbor’s line. For two months, he’s looked forward to sitting there. His camo coveralls smell a bit like diesel fuel, but he doesn’t care about that or which way the wind is blowing. Neither does Stickers, at least at that moment. Stickers only cares about the hot doe in front of him. He chases her past the ladder stand and gets a one-way trip to that big clover field in the sky for his trouble.

Two days later, the sports reporter for the local paper interviews the hunter and publishes a picture of Stickers. An outdoor writer sees that picture, tracks down the hunter and calls him up for a story on Realtree.com (or North American Whitetail or Field and Stream…you know the players). 

Readers post the usual comments. The buck was poached. It was shot in a high fence. Must be nice to have money for a lease. Woulda been a good one next year. Not that the out-of-state hunter, or the farmer, really cares.

But the neighbor, who’s watched Stickers grow up, sees the story. He starts asking questions. Just which way did Stickers come from? Why was that ladder stand so close to his property line? He starts bad-mouthing to other landowners in the area. And soon enough, he runs into the out-of-state hunter. The conversation ain’t friendly. Word gets back to the farmer. Posted signs go up. Four-wheeler patrols begin. Neighbors quit speaking. 

All over a deer that didn’t even know he had a name.

That story is hypothetical. But I hear a dozen versions of it every season. I’ll bet you’ve heard it a time or two as well. Maybe you’ve even been one of the characters.

So you tell me where the problem is. Is it the out-of-staters coming in with their deep pockets, leasing up ground and then mooching off someone else’s hard work? Is it the bowhunter, who thinks because he plants food plots and names deer, he’s more entitled to shoot them? Is it the outdoor media continually publicizing those big bucks, plastering them all over the Internet and on TV, fueling the big-antler craze?

Or is it some sampling of all the above, and maybe some other factors, rolled into bigger, collective problem that’s creating a nation of hunters with bad attitudes toward one another? Discuss.